Join us each week as Rob Hunter takes a look at new DVD releases and gives his highly unqualified opinion as to which titles are worth BUYing, which are better off as RENTals, and which should be AVOIDed at all costs. And remember, these listings and category placements are meant as informational conversation starters only. But you can still tell Hunter how wrong he is in the comment section below.

This week sees new releases from the Roger Corman Cult Classics line (Humanoids From the Deep and Piranha), an absolutely brilliant French crime drama (A Prophet), the latest from Roman “Oui, dans le cul” Polanski (The Ghost Writer), a hot Bangle (The AllNighter), a pint-sized crime fighter (Kick-Ass) and more!

See all of this week’s relevant DVD releases after the jump…

Click on any of the titles below to magically head over to Amazon.com and pick up the DVD. And don’t forget to check out Neil Miller’s This Week In Blu-ray for reviews on the latest high definition Blu-ray releases!

Humanoids From the Deep

Pitch: What happens when you genetically cross men with salmon? You get really horny (and violent) mermen…

Why Buy? A scientific experiment goes awry (as they always seem to do) and the resulting mutation escapes to dismember guys and forcibly seduce the ladies. Unlike Piranha below, this Roger Corman produced horror flick is played completely serious, but that doesn’t mean there are no laughs to be found of course. Humor aside there are some bloody kills to be found here along with plenty of naked lady flesh, and between the US premiere of the longer international cut and some (inexplicably) deleted scenes there’s even more of both here on Shout! Factory’s disc.

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, interviews, making of, trailers

Kick-Ass

Pitch: Violence, sex, and a dirty-mouthed pre-teen? Sounds like an average weekend in the life of Landon Palmer…

Why Buy? A bored teenager with ADD decides to try his hand at the whole superhero thing and catches the eyes of a father/daughter crime-fighting duo as well as a murderous mob boss. All the online hype in the world doesn’t necessarily equate into box-office dollars as this movie failed to catch on with the public at large. It’s too bad because this is a fun and foul flick filled with big laughs and some impressive fights and action sequences. Plus, the movie features a performance from Nicolas Cage that manages to enhance the film instead of detract from it. So that’s got to be worth a watch right?

Extra Features? Commentary, featurette, gallery

Piranha

Pitch: What has a thousand teeth and likes removing bikini tops from co-eds? Piranha. Of course…

Why Buy? A resort community finds a school of piranha dumped into their river, but these aren’t you’re every day piranha… they’re genetically modified killing machines! Joe Dante’s directorial debut is a fun spiritual sequel to Jaws that does a good job mixing genre expectations with some solidly entertaining sequences. You don’t find horror movies willing to show kids getting killed, let alone nibbled to death, but Dante gives us that and more as the piranha feast on the human buffet. Be sure to watch the making-of as well for some humorous anecdotes on the film’s production. Check out Robert Fure’s review of the movie and disc here.

Extra Features? Commentary, behind the scenes, bloopers, additional scenes, trailers

A Prophet

Pitch: A Muslim mobster movie? Not really, but alliteration is fun…

Why Buy? A young Arab man enters prison and finds himself forced into service for the head of the Corsican faction while he struggles to survive inside. I may be asked to turn in my ‘man’ card with this, but I’ve never been a huge fan of mob movies. There are a few I enjoy but too often they seem to just check the boxes of the genre and never bother striving for anything more original. This French movie goes well beyond the genre norm in its exploration of power, race, and ambition in the Parisian crime world. It’s also entertaining, interesting, and human thanks to a fantastic lead performance.

Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage

The AllNighter

Pitch: Susanna Hoffs is hot and very bangle-able…

Why Rent? Three friends graduate from college and decide to spend one last night hanging out and partying together. This light-weight and simple comedy won’t cure cancer or anything, but sometimes “perfectly adequate” is all you need. It’s an obvious eighties movie in every sense of the word, and that combined with the sexy and charismatic Hoffs make it for a fun ninety minutes. Plus it stars Joan Cusack as one of Hoffs’ friends! And Michelle Pfeiffer’s sister as the other one!

Extra Features? None

Diary Of a Wimpy Kid

Pitch: Whatever you do, don’t touch the cheese…

Why Rent? A small-for-his-age kid heads off to middle school determined to make his mark and become popular. This movie is based on a series of popular kids’ books and a sequel has already been green-lit, but has there ever been a less likable lead character in a movie made for children? Seriously, this kid is a jerk. The actor makes him entertaining at least and there are enough jokes and fun with the supporting cast to make this a mildly worthwhile diversion for households with young ones.

Extra Features? Commentary, deleted scenes, featurette, trailer

Finding Bliss

Pitch: Ever wonder what Jamie Kennedy’s junk looks like? God I hope the answer is no, but if not you’ll definitely want to check this movie out…

Why Rent? A film school graduate (Leelee Sobieski) with low sexual self-esteem heads to Los Angeles to work in film but ends up as an editor for an adult video company where she tries to make her own independent movie at night. Sobieski fans will be happy to hear that she finally gets a lead role and shows she’s more than up to the task at hand. She does a fine job here as does the supporting cast who never shy away from the fairly raunchy dialogue, and even though no one would ever believe a worthwhile and honestly good movie could be filmed entirely on a porn soundstage you’ll be rooting for her success all the same. It’s a romantic comedy (with dick), and it has a bit more heart and laughs than you’d probably expect from a direct to DVD movie so throw some support Sobieski’s way and check it out.

Extra Features? Deleted scenes, featurettes, storyboards

The Living Wake

Pitch: I want an Asian baby from Korea or Japan, Vietnam it doesn’t matter, I just want it in my hand. But no one, will let me play, with their Asian baby…

Why Rent? K. Roth Binew (Mike O’Connell) is convinced he’ll be dead by the end of the day so he organizes his own wake with the aid of his right-hand man, Mills Joquin (Jesse Eisenberg). This is a funny movie, but the humor is of the quirky indie variety and therefore not for everyone. O’Connell is a personality/comedian as opposed to a true actor, but he manages a spirited and entertaining performance just the same. Eisenberg on the other hand is a fine actor but intentionally plays to the quirk as he transports Binew along in a bicycle-powered rickshaw. Worth a watch for those that can handle the odd pacing, low budget, and O’Connell’s abrasive style.

Extra Features? None

Sweetgrass

Pitch: I hate to judge an entire industry based on one glimpse, but damn, these shepherds are pricks…

Why Rent? This doc explores shepherd life as a herd of sheep are ranged across the mountains, and the filmmakers let the images do the talking in lieu of interviews or planned dialogue exchanges. It’s not for everyone as the industry is not pleasant for the animals or for folks who think of them as anything but fodder for mankind’s whims. Sheep treated as simple product is unsurprising but still rough to watch. Tiny, fragile-looking lambs are tossed around by their necks, and full-grown sheep are manhandled and contorted during the shearing process. It’s all fairly ugly. But it’s reality, and shots like these are balanced with some truly beautiful imagery of the Montana landscape and of the animals themselves acting with curiosity and a sheep-like mentality… There’s also a hilarious rant by a frustrated shepherd that would make David Mamet blush.

Extra Features? None

After.Life

Pitch: If the best thing about a movie is a generous amount of naked Christina Ricci, then, well okay. That’s not such a bad thing…

Why Avoid? A teacher (Ricci) drives angry and crashes her car after a fight with her boyfriend (Justin Long) and wakes up on a mortuary slab. The mortician (Liam Neeson) tells her to relax and to just accept her death, but she won’t take it lying down. Well, she will, but not for long. The movie drags the premise out for what feels like much longer than it actually is with brief detours with the boyfriend dealing with his grief and doubt over her death. An interesting turn of events appears near the ending, but if you give it more than a second or two of thought you’ll see how full of holes it really is.

Extra Features? Making of, trailer

The Ghost Writer

Pitch: What do you call a thriller without a single thrill? Er…

Why Avoid? A writer (Ewan McGregor) is hired to work on an ex-Prime Minister’s (Pierce Brosnan) autobiography after the last ghost writer ends up dead. Roman Polanski’s mid to late career films have focused on a balance between dramas and thrillers with his latest falling into the latter category. Theoretically. This flick just plods along, occasionally throwing in some anti-torture/anti-US ramblings, before a minor reveal and a silly ending. We never get anything remotely resembling suspense or even real drama. The terribly fake-looking exteriors at the beach house don’t help either.

Extra Features? Interview, featurettes

Happiness Runs

Pitch: As annoying as hippies can be, their kids are apparently even worse…

Why Avoid? A teenager raised in a commune decides its time to leave when he realizes how messed up his peers are becoming. It seems being raised around rampant sex and drug use can have a negative effect on children. The premise here has potential and I’m almost always in favor of teen sex scenes, but the movie fails to get a dramatic foothold due to a combination of poor directing, writing, and acting. Even Rutger Hauer phones it in as the local guru who hypnotizes the ladies into dropping their tie-dyed underpants. I defy anyone to actually care about Victor’s situation or the artificial drama that surrounds him.

Extra Features? None

Also out this week, but I haven’t seen it and review material was unavailable:

Battletruck/Deathsport Double Feature
Blood Done Sign My Name
The Dungeon Masters
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn
Open House
Spike
To Save A Life

In the interest of full disclosure, I received review copies of the following DVDs for this week’s column:

After.Life
Finding Bliss
The Ghost Writer
Humanoids From the Deep
Piranha

Read More: This Week in DVD

What are you buying on DVD this week?


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